Beer-distribution policy battle: Resist temptation to ‘do something’

KyGAThe so-called “beer bill” passed by the Kentucky House on Tuesday has nothing to do with protecting small craft-beer makers and everything to do with Anheuser-Busch’s distributor-competitors using the force of government to drive a competitor out of the marketplace.

These opponents of competition feign concern that failing to take away Anheuser-Busch’s property will somehow result in the brewer monopolizing the distribution industry.

Such arguments stink up Frankfort worse than a team of Clydesdales in a scorching summer-day parade.

The craft-beer industry is booming in Louisville and elsewhere in Kentucky, even with Anheuser-Busch owning a distributor in the commonwealth for nearly four decades.

The fact that so many Republicans voted for House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s proposal , including House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, confirms the continued existence of inherent vice of politicians in both parties: they think that they have to “do something” just because they are elected officials.

The best response to bad policy always — always — is to do nothing to aid and abet it. Yet sometimes “doing nothing” is the very hardest temptation for a politician eager to please his or her special-interest masters to resist.

This would be a great time for our state senators to continue overcoming — as they have done in the past — and stop yet another bad bill, courtesy of the redistributionists and their weak-kneed representatives from the minority party in the so-called “people’s House.”

Read my recent Bluegrass Beacon column here about developments related to this policy.



Missouri judge rules Common Core testing group is illegal

Says Show Me state cannot pay any money for the services

In a stunning development in the on-going saga of the Common Core State Standards, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Green has ruled that the formation of the multi-state testing consortium known as the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium violates provisions in the US Constitution as well as a number of federal laws.

The ruling, which probably has implications for the other Common Core test consortium, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), could throw testing into turmoil in many states. Both PARCC and SBAC are starting to test now.

The ruling follows an earlier temporary injunction issued by Judge Green in November.

This news article from North Dakota, where similar legal action is in process, explains the issues.

Kentucky dodged this bullet – more by luck than design – because it has dropped out of its former participation in both PARCC and SBAC. Still, the growing story could raise future questions here about why legal implications of the state’s earlier participation were not more carefully researched.

Kentucky House of Representatives finally — and overwhelmingly — answers call to reform telecom regulatory policy

Just four days after leftist ideologue and state AARP director Ron Bridges called on Kentucky lawmakers to once again stop reasonable telecom-reform legislation in the state House of Representatives – an overwhelming number of those lawmakers did the right thing by promptly ignoring Bridges’ tired Chicken Little drivel.

Bridges, who’s much-less reasonable and knowledgeable than his counterparts in other states about how a free market works – especially in the area of telecommunications reform has claimed for years that policy like that contained in House Bill 152, which rids the commonwealth of the scourge of outdated regulations that discourage telecommunications companies from investing in expanding broadband and other technologies, would bring great harm seniors.

This, of course, has not happened in any other state that has passed reforms similar to what the House approved today.

Bridges believes that: (a) Kentucky seniors are not vitally interested in the tremendous benefits that expanding and growing technologies offer and (b) telecommunications companies would support public policy that would drive hundreds of thousands of current customers from Kentucky’s fastest-growing demographic group away.

This bill, which reflects similar legislation passed by the state Senate for years, will soon be headed to the desk of  Gov. Steve Beshear, who came out in support of the policy this year.

Watch here as the Bluegrass Institute recently on statewide TV made the case for how this reform will unleash the economic potential of private-sector telecommunications’ investment in our commonwealth.


Kentucky House Minority Whip Jim DeCesare on Right-to-Work

We’ve been posting clips from the Right-to-Work press conference held in Frankfort on February 12, 2015. Right-to-Work is a hot topic in Frankfort because the lack of this law is hurting Kentucky’s ability to attract new business, as Representative DeCesare points out in his comments during the press conference.

Common Core tests hit reality, repeat Kentucky’s mistakes

Kentuckians are well aware that “Performance” type testing creates all sorts of chaos for schools and students. It simply takes forever to grade this “stuff,” so results always come back too late.

Kentucky now has a state law requiring testing be conducted near the end of the school year. As a consequence, the state’s KPREP test results have not come back to schools, parents and the public until well after the start of the following school term. That is a real problem for Kentucky teachers trying to make changes based on the results. Instead of a calm curriculum adjustment before kids return to class, Bluegrass State teachers are forced to make changes on the fly (if they even bother) while facing a heavy burden of an active teaching schedule.

Now, as a new Education Week article points out, new common core tests from two national testing consortia, universally known today from their initials as the PARCC and SBAC groups, are causing chaos in a somewhat different way. In an attempt to get scores back before school ends, other states are about to find out why Kentucky does not allow testing until the school year is nearly over. It could be a costly mistake.

Believe this or not, annual state testing is already starting in some of the testing consortia states. That is being done so that the results from the difficult-and-time-consuming-to-score Performance-based tests might be returned before the school year ends.

This approach is going to be a real problem in those states for several reasons:

• Teachers and students will be judged on performance at a point scarcely more than half way through the school year. That’s a very incomplete picture.
• Kentucky requires testing near the end of the year for a reason; we learned that once testing is done, school essentially is over, too. With PARCC and SBAC testing so early, kids and teachers may be putting their feet up on desks a lot earlier than “senior week.” A school year supposed to be about 180 days long will turn into a much shorter effective time.
• Even if teachers try to instruct after testing ends, students are going to be much harder to motivate. Once again, the 180 day school year evaporates even if teachers do try to continue.
• In what will probably be very rare cases where both teachers and students do keep on track, no-one will know it. The testing is already over. Nothing done after the end of testing can be acknowledged by the assessment process.

So, here’s my big question: why is the rest of the nation repeating mistakes made in Kentucky two decades ago?

I’ll have more on that in a few days.

Companies want to create products in a right-to-work world

BluegrassBeaconLogoLegally challenging the validity of local right-to-work laws passed by Kentucky counties seems the only viable option for labor-union officials concerned about losing money and members if individual workers gain the freedom to say “no” to union dues without losing their jobs.

Like their collective-bargaining agreements, several unions bundled their anger together and filed a lawsuit at the federal courthouse in Louisville against the Hardin County Fiscal Court, which on Jan. 14 became the fifth Kentucky county to pass a local right-to-work ordinance.

The union brothers and sisters – presumably along with an inflatable pink pig they brought along and blew up as part of an anti-right-to-work demonstration recently outside the Clark County Courthouse in Winchester – hope newly appointed Judge David Hale will rule that federal law preempts counties from passing such ordinances.

From a legal aspect, this issue is undecided – but presumably only until judges who end up involved in this case do what they are charged to do: abide by the Constitution, particularly its Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

That means limiting the federal’s government’s reach to only those areas clearly granted it by the U.S. Constitution while reserving certain governmental powers to both states as long as it’s not prohibited by the federal document “or to the people,” as the Tenth Amendment states.

Nowhere does that Constitution prohibit states from delegating to counties – as Kentucky did in 1978 – the authority to pass their own right-to-work ordinances. It’s even possible that a constitutionally centric judge will find that when it comes to the power in this case, the states and people hold all of the cards.

Still, the case must be heard – just like the University of Kentucky basketball Wildcats must still go play each game even if they are favored to become the first team in nearly four decades to go undefeated.

The final outcome remains uncertain until the ruling is made.

However, there’s no uncertainty that not only was that inflatable pig the cutest – or at least the pinkest – inflatable entity I’ve seen, but also that right-to-work laws make a state more attractive to companies looking to expand or relocate.

Any uncertainty is removed by site-selection experts themselves whose statements were noted in a legislative committee hearing in Frankfort last March:

  • “We, as economic developers, are asked to do a job, yet we are significantly hampered by Kentucky’s non right-to-work status. We have significant competition already from other Midwestern and Southern states to attract international and domestic manufacturing opportunities. … Estimates from site-selection experts indicate that anywhere from one-third to half of all manufacturing projects do not consider Kentucky because of our right-to-work status.” –Daniel E. Tobergate, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED president and CEO
  • “Approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of our clients still prefer making right-to-work a qualifying pass-fail criteria. … Kentucky is considered for fewer manufacturing projects than if they were a right-to-work state.–Mark Sweeney, Sr. Principal, McCallum Sweeney Consulting, Greenville, South Carolina
  • “A majority of Atlas Insight’s manufacturing clients, especially those manufacturers from European countries looking to expand in the U.S., express a definite preference for right-to-work states. In fact, unionized states are often filtered out on the first screen and won’t even make the long list of locations.” Kathy Mussio, Managing Partner, Atlas Insight LLC, New Jersey
  • “One of the first filters that can eliminate a state from site location consideration is its right-to-work status. … when a corporation uses their own process your state will be nearly immediately removed from consideration.” –Josh Bays, Site Selection Group, LLC, Dallas, Texas

Right-to-work opponents claim that a state’s right-to-work status doesn’t figure prominently into companies’ decisions on where to expand or relocate. But repeating such a mantra doesn’t make it so – any more than claiming pigs fly.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Educational Testing Service analysis: U.S. Millennials Trail in recent young adult testing

Educational testing service just released a new analysis of how young adults in the Unites States stack up against their counterparts in other industrialized nations.

The conclusion:

“…despite having the highest levels of educational attainment of any previous American generation, these young adults on average demonstrate relatively weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments compared to their international peers. These findings hold true when looking at millennials overall, our best performing and most educated, those who are native born, and those from the highest socioeconomic background. Equally troubling is that these findings represent a decrease in literacy and numeracy skills for U.S. adults when compared with results from previous adult surveys.”

Because interesting claims are being made about some of the fad education ideas that have been tried and discarded in this country since the 1990s, I decided to look at one specific age group covered in the report, the 16 to 24 year olds. This graph shows how younger US adults stacked up against their peers in a 2012 test from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.

Numeracy for 16-24 Yr Olds on Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies from ETS

As you can see, US 16 to 24 year olds scored behind 21 other nations, including a number of former Soviet satellite states. Similar sad pictures are presented for literacy and problem solving skills in technology-rich environments.

Keep in mind that the 16 to 24 year olds of 2012 spent their entire K to 12 education experience in schools that supposedly were being radically reformed by post-1990 efforts such as Kentucky’s KERA. The 24-year olds started school in 1993 and the 16-year olds entered Kindergarten around 2001.

We heard an awful lot of claims about how US education was improving in this time frame, but it is clear any improvement has been outstripped by better results in a notable number of other countries.

Technical Note: Data to create the graph comes from Table C-2 in “AMERICA’S SKILLS CHALLENGE: Millennials and the Future.”

SBDM Councils – Wrong for Kentucky Schools and Families

Phyllis Sparks Photo
Guest post by: Phyllis Sparks

“…there are limits on a board’s authority and we are not permitted
to usurp the authority of site based councils.”

– Boone County School Board Member Ed Massie
On behalf of the Board and Superintendent, December 2014

We often hear that local control is better. I firmly believe that government decisions are best made at the local level. Having input from residents and elected officials within your community presents an opportunity of leadership by those who understand the people, culture, and regional political landscape. That said, I also believe it is possible for control to become too restrictive, and would like to share my experience with just such a scenario. This is a challenge we currently face with the Site Based Decision Making councils (SBDM) that provide oversight of our Kentucky schools.

The SBDM pose an important problem for quality education. In the end, it is clear that the elected district board members have little control over their school system. It is also clear that parents have a limited voice at both the district and site-based council levels. Worse, due to a lack of sharing and coordination, students can become isolated and left behind under the current Kentucky school governance structure.

[Read more...]

Right-to-work update: 10 percent of Ky counties pass at least first readings of ordinances; site selectors reach out to Warren County

0So far, 10 percent of Kentucky’s counties have held at least a first reading on a local right-to-work ordinance.

Six counties have passed final readings and are beginning to reap the benefits that having a right-to-work policy brings, including being contacted by site selectors concerning company expansions and re-locations.

Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce president Ron Bunch stated in a news release by Protect My Check – part of a coalition of organizations, including the Bluegrass Institute, helping local communities pass right-to-work ordinances — that Warren County, which passed the commonwealth’s first local right-to-work ordinance on Dec. 19, is already under consideration for more than 15 new company projects representing more than 2,300 new jobs and $184 million in new investment.

“We knew passing Warren County’s local right-to-work ordinance would have a profound impact on our economic development opportunities to benefit our entire local community, and we are thrilled to realize results so quickly,” Bunch said. “For the first time in competing head-to-head against Tennessee counties, we don’t have to explain why they have right-to-work and we don’t. Bowling Green and Warren County have once again put themselves on the map as a business-friendly location and we are already seeing strong positive results.”

Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said that while it’s happening faster than expected, he’s not surprised at the increased interest already being shown by companies in southcentral Kentucky.

“This is what happened in Indiana when they passed right-to-work,” Buchanon said, noting that the Hoosier State reported 100 new projects worth $3 billion in new capital investment during the first year following passage of its law allowing individuals to make their own decisions regarding union membership and dues without the threat of penalty or losing their jobs.

Hoosiers’ incomes also rose by $1,000 (plus the additional $500-$750 most former labor-union members reaped after deciding not to join a union or pay dues) — negating the claims of labor-union bosses that right-to-work drives down wages and income.

* The six right-to-work counties in Kentucky are Warren, Simpson, Todd, Fulton, Hardin and Cumberland.

     * Six other counties have held first readings, including Pulaski, Logan, Butler, Adair, Whitley and Rockcastle.

Several other counties are considering right-to-work ordinances.

Keep updated on county right-to-work ordinances on the Bluegrass Institute’s Wikipedia-style website here.

Judge-executives and fiscal court magistrates statewide who wish to find out more about local right-to-work ordinances may contact Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters at

Do “Performance Assessments” help or hurt?

There is a lot of discussion going on right now about what tests to evaluate student performance under the Common Core State Standards should look like.

A number of people, including some right here in Kentucky, are pressing for a return – yes, it will be a return – to something called “Performance Assessments.” The assessments being envisioned would feature more than a lot of open-response, or written-answer, questions. There is a push to use more radical ideas like “Portfolios” and “Performance Items,” the sorts of things Kentucky tried on its old Kentucky Instructional Results Information System (KIRIS) tests in the mid-1990s.

There is a big problem with this – Performance Assessment ideas, which have also been called “Authentic Assessments,” didn’t work very well in Kentucky. In fact, the “Performance Events” and the “Mathematics Portfolios” used in the old KIRIS only lasted four years before unsolvable problems relegated both to the dust heap. Later on, as part of the process that led to Senate Bill 1 from the 2009 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session, the state finally figured out that using student scores from Writing Portfolios in an assessment program didn’t work, either. In fact, using Writing Portfolios in assessment even acted in ways that undermined good writing instruction.

Also, the burden from failures of Performance Assessments may have fallen unevenly on minority students.

So, why are these failed ideas being pushed, again?

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